Cougars knocked out of playoffs by top-seeded Dinos

Photo: David Moll
Photo: David Moll

CALGARY – After a nine-year absence, the University of Calgary Dinos are off to the U SPORTS women's volleyball championship after disposing of the Mount Royal University Cougars in straight sets Friday (25-21, 25-23, 25-22), winning their best-of-three Canada West quarter-final 2-0.

The top-seeded Dinos, who own the No. 2 national ranking, advance to host the Canada West semifinal next weekend, and with the conference owning four of the eight berths at the national tournament, are guaranteed a spot at the U SPORTS event in Quebec City March 16-18.

Calgary (21-3, 2-0) continually denied Mount Royal (11-13, 0-2) at the net, finishing with 38 kills total while notching 28 blocks as a team. Kate Pexman paced the Dinos with a team high 12 kills, while Jaylynn Moffatt followed closely with nine kills and three digs. Leah Shevkenek added 29 helpers, three kills and seven digs.

Moffatt and Beth Vinnell led the way with seven rejections each, while Pexman added five. Leah Shevkenek denied the rivals four times, helping limit the Cougars to a .098 hitting percentage.

Chantel Park contributed a match-high 14 kills to lead the Cougars attack, while Anna Carlson and Alex Donaghy added nine and seven kills, respectively. Quinn Pelland dished 33 assists, while Donaghy recorded 18 digs. At the net, Cassidy Kitchen and Park each blocked two Calgary attacks, while Anna Carlson rejected the hosts' attempts three times.

The Dinos got off to a quick start with a 25-21 victory in the first frame; Pexman contributed six kills in the early period, while Moffatt slammed down three. The tally was knotted several times throughout, starting at 6-6, and going onto 10-10 and 13-13, but a Pexman kill and errors by Kitchen prompted a Cougars timeout. Undeterred, the Dinos finished the set following a kill by Pexman and an attack error by Donaghy.

The Cougars rallied in the second period, as the Mount Royal attack came alive, with Park tallying six kills and Donaghy adding four. The visiting team jumped out to an early 3-1 lead, to which Calgary responded with a Shevkenek kill and service ace. From 3-3 onwards, the lead shifted back and forth with neither team able to grab a decisive advantage. The Dinos did not relent, and aggressively battled to take the two-point lead after a quick play by Pexman. Moffatt recorded the last play of the set, clinching it for Calgary, 25-23.

Taking a 5-1 lead into the third period, Calgary used a four-point spurt in the middle of the period to take a 15-7 advantage, capitalizing off plays from Pexman, Moffatt and Adolf. The Cougars battled to cut the deficit to two, 15-13, and errors plagued the Dinos late in the set, allowing Mount Royal to knot the score. Park put Calgary in the danger zone at 22-21, hoping to force a fourth, but Adolf retaliated and Pexman sealed the deal for the Dinos.

"With games like this, patience is key," said head coach Natalie Gurnsey. "It forces you to stay calm, wait until you have a good shot, and wear down your competition as much as they're wearing you down. In the third set, the Cougars were able to make a few huge digs on some great shots that we made, and I think this came at a time where the Dino girls were getting excited and seeing 'the light at the end of the tunnel.' These two factors combined made for a challenging third, but the girls settled in, remained calm, and patiently closed it out."

The Dinos will host a best-of-three Canada West semifinal next weekend in the Jack Simpson Gym, with Game 1 set for Friday, March 2 at 6 p.m.